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Should I wear a face mask for protection?

Did you know we breathe almost 6,000 times more air by volume in a lifetime than water we consume!  If we all drink bottled water, shouldn’t we filter our air when needed if we breath that much more?! Common sense says yes.  Common sense is normally a good guide.

Each of us are unique beings with different reactions to the state of our environment.  Air quality that may be fine for one person may not be so for you.  Make your own determination based on your specific needs.  Your needs are based several on both personal and environmental factors.

Personal Factors include:

  1. Susceptibility to pollution or bad air quality
  2. Hay fever or allergy sufferer
  3. Already sick or compromised immune system
  4. Children with still developing lungs and immune systems
  5. Aged or elderly
  6. Sick and infectious
  7. Healthy, but exposed to poor or unhealthy air quality
  8. Healthy, but potentially exposed to airborne infectious diseases

If you fall into any of these categories, then you should be considering wearing a filtering face mask!  If you fall in categories 1 – 6 you should even more strongly consider wearing a filtering face mask.

Environmental Factors include:

  • Pollution levels or bad air quality in your macro and micro environment
  • Work related hazards such found in construction, maintenance, beauty/hair salons, store clerks and many other occupations
  • Close contact with people in your micro environment such as planes, trains, rapid transit systems, elevators, hospitals and large gatherings
  • Live near construction sites where they are building roads, buildings or condominiums nearby.
  • Nearby factories or businesses sending particulates or chemicals into the air.

If you are ever in any of these situations, then you should consider wearing a filtering face mask!

It is important to note that your environment can change very quickly, moment by moment.  You can be in a perfectly fine situation one moment and the next moment in harm’s way.  It can be a lovely day and then you step into a crowded rapid transit train near a sick person or into your elevator in your building on the way to work.  You could live in the suburbs where the air quality is good, commute to work and then walk to work down a busy polluted street.

The fact is that almost all of us fall into one of those factors at least some of the time.  That leads us then to these other questions to consider before you purchase a filtering face mask.  If the problems are very random then it may not be worth your time and expense.  Take some time to evaluate the hazards in your area.  Remember these hazards and particulates are tiny and invisible.  If you need to see them to react you have waited way to long.

How can I know the pollution levels in my environment?

There are many apps to help you find the pollution level in your macro and possibly even your micro climate.  A couple we recommend are:

Air Visual  – https://www.airvisual.com/air-quality-app

Plume Air Report – https://plumelabs.com/en/

There are several meters available than can be used to meter the air quality wherever you are.  Then you know for sure.  The bottom line is if you think the air may be bad, it probably is.

How bad are the risks?  Not all air is created equal.  Evaluate the risks and the cost of doing nothing.  Remember the effects of pollution are cumulative like the damaging rays of the sun.  The effects may not show up now but later as they manifest in your body.

What is the cost of getting sick?  Trips to the doctor plus the missed time at work can be significant.  The cost of a filtering face mask is a minor investment of a few cents a day no matter what type you buy. One averted doctor visit or work day lost could pay for a lot of protection.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Answering Objections

To some, the thought of wearing a filtering face mask is unpleasant.  Many have never worn a mask.  Some people don’t even like to wear a hat.  Those are understandable objections.  What is not understandable is to not protect yourself, when you know you should, because you are afraid of what people think.  For some reason in western societies there seems to be a “stigma” about wearing filtering face masks.  They are not normal there like they are in Asia and some other areas.  Yet in western societies almost everyone now drinks bottled water as a prevention.  If you drink bottled water for your health why wouldn’t you filter your air?

 

Not An All or None Situation

If you are having trouble getting over the stigma, here is something to consider.  Of the many variable factors involved in considering wearing a filtering face mask, most of them are not required anywhere near 100% of the time.  You only need to protect yourself when you are in need. The rest of the time your mask can stay safely tucked in your pocket, purse or briefcase.  A filtering face mask is a lot like “an umbrella for your health”.  If you need it use it. 

 

The Effects of Pollution Are Cumulative

It is important to realize that the effects of pollution are cumulative over time.  Some people will show signs immediately.  They are probably lucky, since they would be more inclined to seek protection.

Persons who are less inclined to show immediate symptoms of pollution may be less inclined to seek protection, then later in life the effects begin to surface.  Several studies show the cumulative effects of pollution such as:

Toronto’s Environment and Energy Division  https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2014/hl/bgrd/backgroundfile-68471.pdf

New Jersey Clean Air Council  https://www.nj.gov/dep/cleanair/hearings/pdf/phr2011.pdf

United Nations Environment Program (Links between air pollution and cognition in older people)

http://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/air-pollution-linked-huge-reduction-intelligence

Considerations About the Spread of Disease

No filtering face mask can guarantee that you will not get sick.  But, not wearing any protection insures you have no protection.  The choice is yours!

MIT researchers study revealed “that disease spread by sneezing travels much farther than originally thought.  A study by found that coughs and sneezes are far more adept at spreading viruses than they had thought.  They say the discovery means office ventilation systems play a far bigger role in spreading disease that previously thought.”

For the entire article read here

According to a new University of Maryland study, “It is easier to spread the influenza virus (flu) than previously thought, according to a new study. People commonly believe that they can catch the flu by exposure to droplets from an infected person’s coughs or sneezes or by touching contaminated surfaces. But, new information about flu transmission reveals that we may pass the flu to others just by breathing.”

For the entire article read here

Be Polite

Since we learned above that disease spreads farther than we thought by sneezing, coughing and even breathing, maybe we should think more closely about how we behave when we are sick.  In addition to protecting yourself from others, another reason to wear a mask is to protect those around you.

It is common sense that a mask can greatly reduce the distance the mucus and germs can be expelled when we sneeze or cough.  Many of us were properly taught to use a tissue to cover our nose and mouth when we sneeze and cough.  Sometimes we don’t have a tissue readily available.  Wearing a mask keeps the tissue on your face at those the times like that when you need it in an instant.

 

 

We live in a fast-paced world, both parents are working and sometimes traveling.  We can’t miss work so off we go sick or not, not knowing if we are infectious or not.  Our kids get sick and right or wrong sometimes they get sent to school sick too.  Do not go to work or school if you are sick, but if you must, then please be polite and don a mask!!

 

IF THESE REASONS HAVE COMPELLED YOU TO CONSIDER WEARING A FILTERING FACE MASK,

THEN HERE ARE SOME OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

What to Look For

There are many styles of masks to wear and buying and wearing the right mask is important.  They are not all the same.

Follow the link below to a blog answering some of the questions about some key factors such as:

  • Carbon additives or not – Not all hazards are particulates, some are gaseous
  • Fit – If it doesn’t fit, it won’t work well
  • Sealing – Air is like water, it seeks the path of least resistance. Make sure you mask seals!
  • Comfort – If it isn’t comfortable you won’t wear it as often.
  • Appearance – If you look sharp, you will be more apt to show off your intelligence.
  • Life span – The longer they last, the less the cost per day of protection.
  • Cost – Weigh the features and benefits, your needs and purchase the filtering mask best for you!

For more information on the features and benefits of filtering masks please refer to the following blog.

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Air Quality Index

 

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